Tim Kasher writes songs the way any author of good fiction tells a story.
After first establishing a base within his own experiences, he exaggerates and embellishes, fabricates and reimagines until a good song manifests.
Not always does the character closely resemble the singer, but even those closest to him can’t tell you for certain.
“My mother always wants to pick apart my lyrics and try to figure out what’s going on,” Kasher said. “And for somebody who knows me so well, she doesn’t know which ones are pure fiction and which ones aren’t. And when I say ‘pure fiction,’ I mean the ones that are based off of an idea, or based on a true story.”
It’s the same tried-and-true process that’s followed him through many years of writing songs on Omaha, Neb.-based Saddle Creek Records, first with post-hardcore rock act Cursive and then with The Good Life, which sprung about as a folk-rock outlet for Kasher to record tracks that differed stylistically from his former band.
And where his friend and fellow Saddle Creek artist Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) tends to exaggerate and fabricate and imagine to the point of distorting reality, Kasher’s songs’ scenes skew closer to actuality.
“I want the song to be as good as possible. And sometimes your life experiences just aren’t as magical. They might come off with a thud,” he said. “Some of the songs would sound more autobiographical in earlier edits. But then I go through them and try to make all the experiences more colorful and have them bind together metaphorically.”
Kasher’s realm of experience is — unfortunately — divorce, which he explored on Cursive’s excellent 2000 LP, “Domestica,” an album rank of bitterness and betrayal. Now 37, Kasher still dwells on similar thoughts he expressed with “The Game of Monogamy” and “Bigamy,” his first solo record and an EP of additional material, respectively. Songs “There Must Be Something I Lost” and “A Grown Man” tell of a middle-aged guy reeling about as he tries to find something valid in his time alive.
“I am a grown man / How did this happen?” is the line that opens “Monogamy,” followed soon by “I don’t want a kid and I can’t keep being one,” before spiraling into a theatrical downfall spun by synthesizers and chugging guitars. Depressing scenes ensue, including one where the character indulges a trip to the past by Googling exes with a bottle on hand. (Hint: It’s not orange juice.)
It’s the stuff of good drama, and it’s endeared Kasher to audiences with three different acts.
“We open up a chunk of the set to playing requests each night, and that’s when people want to hear Cursive or The Good Life stuff. But lately, they’ve been asking for my solo songs,” he said. “It’s really rewarding.”
Photo by EOzymandius